If corporate web sites are communication tools that can influence decisions and encourage positive actions, how can they drive actions? In this conclusion of the new venture web site series, we will explore the more difficult aspect of web sites RESULTS.
I have spoken at length about influencers, connotations, reinforcement of marketing messages, and creating interest in business ventures. I have mentioned that firms can coordinate marketing actions through a web site such as seminars, webinars, talks, conference exhibits, white papers, and press releases. These are valuable reasons to put some time and effort in creating your web site messages yet the web site can produce more direct results as well.
We are in business to get results, to create products and services that will change the world, and to enrich ourselves and our team in the process. When we have meetings, we look for take-aways, action items, and next-steps. When we build our web site, we should expect visitors to do the same. Yet, web sites are often limited to one way communication tools – passive marketing literature. Why not enable more? Even if we are not going to transact business over our site, we can drive the next-steps of interested site visitors.
A positive direct result of a web site is for someone to review the material, take an interest, formulate an idea, and then contact the new venture to clarify that idea. That idea may be to purchase the product or service, become a partner, invest, or otherwise increase the potential of the firm. But before a web site visitor can communicate their interest to the new venture, they must contact the appropriate party within the new venture and move one-way communication into two-way dialogue. Notice, those words CONTACT THE APPROPRIATE PARTY.
I have seen websites with contact pages that have nothing more than a click hear for more information which forces my email editor to pop-up with an email address. This is pathetic. No address. No phone. No Fax. Even the Yellow Pages has more information. What If I want to call to write a story? What if a prospective customer or partner wants to talk to a knowledgeable person? What if a person wants to write a letter? Why make them wait for you to take action in replying to a for sales, click here email when they want to be pro-active and get-the-ball-rolling? If they spend the time to thumb through a new venture’s messages, learn about a business, discover its strategic play, understand its value offering, and perhaps its management philosophy as well, shouldn’t they then be able to call someone and take action or ask clarifying questions? Dialogue and relationships must be mutually beneficial.
Yes the new venture is an action taker yet they don’t have to be in the driver’s seat all the time. The reason new ventures exists is because exciting opportunities are passed over by large corporations that protect existing revenue streams more than they attempt to capture new opportunities. They overlook opportunities not necessarily because they are myopic, but also because of limited resources and time. Why not let a prospective relationship take the proactive role some of the time? Face it, new ventures can’t foster all the relationships required to get themselves off the ground. Let others contribute to this monumental task. Let outsiders contact new ventures directly phone, postal, fax, and email.
The largest difficulty with this directive is that it invites unwanted contacts pesky salespeople, job applicants, and news writers. Yet this is why your office manager makes more than the first year programmer. Talented office managers know how to direct calls, tell people who to write, or pass them off to the internal voice mail trash cans. An astute salesperson or prospective employee knows that calling a firm and asking to speak to the CEO is a plain silly waist of time for both parties even if they get through. Yet, when the only person listed is the CEO, who else is left to contact?
Prescription: List the key management team, their roles, and their contact address. For a bona fide business person attempting to contact your new venture with a strong offering, she will find the correct person to contact and forward a letter directly asking for permission to contact them over the phone. If you don’t want to talk with her, your standing order with your office manager to take messages from unknown solicitors will dispatch them immediately. If you are interested, then have your personal assistant schedule a moment for further discussion. That’s it. It is that simple.
Don’t list your direct phone line. Don’t list your direct email either. Both of these invite unscrupulous offers from shady business people.
Do list a general contact for sales, partnering, and employment. Do list your general phone number. Do list an email address for sales, HR, and strategic partnerships. And do respond to these emails with at least an auto generated message.
Hanging your net shingle is inviting people to come in and take a look at your business. Refusing contact information, or granting only one method of access, is like slamming the door in the face of someone you just invited into your home. When a new venture invites someone to do some research on the firm, they should also be somewhat hospitable and direct the relationship formation process to the correct party. You have taken the first step in forming relationships by the creation of your web site; let your site visitors take the next by contacting you appropriately.
Lastly, make sure the contact page is accurate: email@example.com is not the email address to Nicor HR (http://www.nicor.com/careers/jobs.htm).
The May Report, TECH BUSINESS BRIEFS, March 13, 2002